A new year always brings new energy and new forward vision, and this is especially the case when the new year coincides with change – a new post, perhaps, a new city, or a new country … or even a new hemisphere. It is also a time to reflect on current practice and make sure that it continues to have relevance and force in the new order. Reflection is particularly important in a world which does not always seem to value the pause for thought; for those of us engaged in education, be we pupils, parents or educators, we have a distinct duty to remind people of this.
This blog, therefore, reflects on why writing a blog is, on balance, a good thing. I have been writing a blog for 18 months, testing out the medium, using it to comment on what is happening in the world, and I have reached the following conclusions:
People should write more. Writing is an under-valued art, and yet it is one of the most powerful ways we have as a human race to share not just information, but ideas, thoughts, perceptions and feelings. Writing can persuade, inform, challenge and reveal new perspectives. Writing enables the writer to think before communicating, and allows the reader to reflect while receiving and interpreting the message. Writing counters the instant, soundbite culture of our time, where words flow from mouths, to be lost in the ether. Writing – and reading what others have written – is important to help us all stop living predominantly in the superficial, and to reflect deeply and more profoundly on issues that are really of importance to us.
Writing a blog is a discipline. Writing itself is a discipline – not just the crafting of phrases and sentences into a form which has meaning to the reader, but the regular choosing of a topic, crystallising an opinion, and communicating this via the written word. Writing needs preparation, commitment and dedication. Good writing cannot just be dashed off and left; even the most inspired authors need to take time to consider, draft and re-draft. Speak to any successful author and she or he will tell you about their disciplined writing routine – a discipline that enables them to grow and develop their skill. A blog takes only a fraction of this time, of course, but the discipline is the same. Young people especially need to learn from adults the value of discipline, because the messages they receive from society around them do not always support this understanding.
We need to write more about things that really matter. Cyberspace is awash with trivia – and a cursory glance at the magazines and publications on the shelves of bookstores will reveal much more of the same. There is nothing wrong with trivia per se, if it exists as a small percentage of the material to which we are exposed, but when it is the dominating partner, it is suffocating of thought and the enemy of reflection. Mathematics teaches us that the way to adjust proportions is to add or subtract from each of the areas; an understanding of human psychology teaches us that it is more practical to change our behaviour than the behaviour of others. It follows, therefore, that if we are to tackle what sometimes appears to be a tsunami of inanity, then we need to take to the medium ourselves and write about what really matters – values, education and our global responsibilities to the human race. For the Head of a girls’ school, it makes perfect sense to write about issues of gender equality, about the challenges still facing girls and women around the world, and about how parents and schools can work in partnership to help our daughters grow into the adults they are meant to be.
Schools teach young people to write, and they encourage them to communicate via the written word. If our children do not learn how to write, their choices in life are limited. If they do not learn how to write well, their choices will be more limited than if they do. And in order to be motivated to learn to write well, they need to see the relevance and importance of writing around them, and they need to engage with writing not merely as passive readers, but as active, enthusiastic, purposeful participants.
I encourage you all to write, as an example to the next generation …